What can it be like teaching at a private school?

Overview

There are around 2,500 independent schools in the UK. There may be some preconceived ideas about teaching in private schools and you could have heard conflicting stories from colleagues.

In this article, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about teaching in private schools and point to further sources where you can find additional information.

Are class sizes much smaller in independent schools?

Classes in independent schools tend to be much smaller compared to those in the maintained sector. HMC a professional association of private school headteachers claim their independent schools have some of the lowest student-staff ratios in UK schools, one teacher for every 9 pupils compared with one teacher for every 22 pupils in the state sector.

Class sizes will differ between schools but it will be rare that you will be teaching more than 20 pupils in a class. There will be more chances for one-on-one interaction with pupils, which may make teaching classes and managing behaviour much easier.

What will I be expected to teach in an independent school?

Like academies, private schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum. They have more flexibility when it comes to how and what they teach. Private schools do not have to administer the KS2 SATs or year 1 phonics screening check. You may be teaching content for the International Baccalaureate or IGCSE, although many private schools still get pupils to sit ‘standard’ GCSEs and A-levels.

For some teachers the freedom from prescribed testing means more creative and enjoyable teaching although you might prefer a more structured curriculum to follow. You will be more likely expected to delve into greater depth and breadth in your subjects.

The majority of independent schools offer a wide range of extracurricular activities. Some might even have facilities such as swimming pools, media suites, computer labs and collaborative working environments which could mean you teach in a more varied teaching environment. School trips may also be further afield and varied although like much else this can depend on the school.

For examples of private school curricula you can click on the links below:

Am I likely to be paid more in an independent school?

Independent schools receive funding from fee-paying parents and donors rather than the Department for Education. There can be differences when it comes to pay, benefits and working environment. There are no fixed pay scales within the independent sector. What teachers can expect can vary from school to school.

In some cases pay in the independent sector can be lower, particularly for younger teachers and NQTs. However, this is often complimented by wider benefits and subsidies such as accommodation or living costs, if teaching at a boarding school, and reduced fees for any school-age dependents. As roles become more senior they can often pay more than the state sector.

Pensions are usually in line with the state sector and many independent schools are part of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme which means they receive the same pension as maintained sector teachers.

Will my working hours be longer?

Hours can vary more widely in independent schools and may include evenings and weekends, especially in boarding schools. As private schools do not need to adhere to the STPCD there is no directed time limit of 1265 hours each year.

You might find it useful to look at timetables from independent schools online so you can get an idea of what a typical day looks like. We link to some examples below:

Do I receive longer holidays?

Holidays are typically longer in an independent school, with as much as 19 weeks off per year. Often this is offset by Saturday and evening hours however, again, particularly true of boarding schools.

What is the culture like in independent schools?

Each independent school is likely to have its own traditions and ethos, often steeped in long histories. You will be expected to adapt to this culture and will get a good idea of what it is like by visiting the school in advance and looking at the website and prospectus.

Are there fewer inspections and paperwork?

Independent Schools are not inspected by Ofsted, however, they are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Their inspection framework is not completely different when compared to Ofsted. Boarding provision is, however, Ofsted-inspected. You can find the most recent inspection reports on the Independent Schools Inspectorate website.

Where can I look for more information on independent schools?

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